Sunday, December 7, 2008

On the Runway

Depictions of fashion shows are spread widely throughout popular culture. One example is the fictional Eleanor Waldorf fashion show that was recently portrayed in the hit TV show Gossip Girl. In the episode Blair (the daughter of Eleanor) takes a stab at a current frienemy by letting all the models go home just before the show starts. Conse- quently, the frienemy and her cohorts get to model in the show.

Above: A model walking up the runway at Aurelio Costarella's Spring/Summer 2009
fashion show in New York's Bryant Park. Photographed by: Me on September 11, 2008

I use this as an example of a misconception because there is absolutely no way a group of normal girls would fit in clothing made specifically for models (even if they were a size 2). The first time I saw a group of models in the office, I knew immediately on site that they were models. They are so tall and slender, I felt like they were beautiful giants that could reach down with their long arms and pluck me from the ground at any moment.

"Model-casting agents have showed initial interest but have repeatedly told Tatiana to lose 10 to 15 pounds to reach the 34-24-34 measurements they seek. Her waist is 28 inches and her hips are 36." -Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal on 6'2" aspiring model Tatiana Stewart.

While this is an example of one small misconception, I feel like many people have varying other false perceptions about fashion shows. I was lucky enough to get to attend a couple.

During New York fashion week, I was able to attend shows for Chris Han and Aurelio Costarella. It was an incredible experience.

"Are you kidding? We get better access at Air Force One than KCD shows." - A newswire photographer, at the Diane von Furstenberg show as shared by Fashionista.

First of all, it is helpful to note that there are four main fashion weeks that each happen twice a year. The main fashion weeks are located in New York, London, Milan and Paris. One fashion week is held in each location for both Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter.

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New York fashion week is held in Bryant Park. Large white tents are set up that house the shows. Once everyone enters the tent they are greeted with small gifts (depending on the show) and bottled water. They take their seats or mill around and chat with friends. When the show is about the start, all the lights go out. People rush to their seats. After a few seconds, the lights come back up, the music starts and the first model heads down the runway. People are seated on either side of the runway with a large stand full of photographers at the end of the runway flashing away with their large zoom lenses. When one model reaches the end, the next model begins. Typically, 30-50 looks are shown and then all the models come out in a line with the designer at the end. The designer takes a bow and the show is over. It only lasts about 15 minutes, but it is one of the coolest and most indes- cribable things I have ever seen.

Above: A model walking down the runway at Aurelio Costarella's Spring/Summer 2009 fashion show in New York's Bryant Park. Photographed by: Me on September 11, 2008

Below:'s YouTube coverage of the Lanvin Spring/Summer 2009 fashion show at Bryant Park.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


In the film adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada, Andy Sachs is a new assistant to the editor-in-chief of a major fashion magazine. At first, Andy is continually mocked around the office for her lack of style. Eventually, she makes friends with the art director who takes her under his wing and gives her a makeover. He takes her to the fashion closet and picks her out the newest and latest styles and poof! Andy has a new and chic wardrobe for the rest of the movie.

"In a violation of the strictures of most fashion glossies, she routinely raids the fashion closet, a mini-Versailles tidily packed floor to ceiling with Valentino, Narciso Rodriguez, and of course, Jimmy Choo. Cavernous and brilliantly lighted, it is the antithesis of a real-life fashion closet, which is usually the size of a generous bathroom jammed with tray upon tray of jewelry, hosiery and clothes all guarded by junior editors — fashion's "grim vigilantes," as Gay Talese called them in "Vogueland," his acid 1961 magazine portrayal of life at Vogue. Eager watchdogs, they would be as likely to borrow tens of thousands of dollars worth of designer wares for a night out as they would to upend a latte on the boss's desk." -Ruth La Ferla in The New York Times

Above: Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs, pre-makeover
Below: Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs, post-makeover
Both photos The Devil Wears Prada movie stills from Yahoo! Movies.

At first, I was surprised at how people really dressed at my internship. Top editors wear designer clothes, but associate editors and assistants usually wear basic chain store clothes. Also, the style around the W office is more relaxed than you would think. Many people wear heels, skirts or ties, but just as many are in jeans, sneakers and t-shirts. After four months there, I have yet to hear a negative comment about what someone is wearing. Many different styles are appreciated and accepted amongst W employees.

"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening." - Coco Chanel

Aside from the difference in style condemnation of other people's style, reality would never see a brand new employee waltz into the closet and take whatever he or she would like. For special occasions, an employee may ask their superior if they may borrow something. However, they must agree to bring it back immediately after use and in the same condition. Whenever something is borrowed, the employee must also fill out an interoffice loan form and take pictures of the item(s) borrowed.

Monday, December 1, 2008


In the first season of Ugly Betty, one episode is entitled "SWAG." For those of you not familiar with the acronym, it means 'Stuff We All Get,' a.k.a. free stuff! In this episode we see a mad herd of beautiful people crashing through the hall to get to a sign up sheet in which they select the best possible time to go and raid the magazine's "closet." Here they may choose whatever designer clothes, shoes, handbags, etc. their hearts desire. Madness ensues.

A clip from ABC's Ugly Betty. This is from the 11th episode of the first season. For relevant clip, skip to 3:40 through 4:38.

This illustrates what I think is one of the most common misperceptions of fashion magazines. You've probably already guessed by my previous statement, that "SWAG" is unfortunately not one of the perks of working at a fashion magazine.

"Working as a peon at a fashion magazine and getting an entire couture wardrobe totally free." - Glamour magazine's: 10 Things That Only Happen in the Movies, as shared by Glossed Over.

Before you begin wondering why we cannot keep the many beautiful things that are photographed in our magazine, let me step through this chronologically.

First, designers debut their new collections. Then, they loan these collections to magazines. Often, the pieces loaned to high fashion magazines are never meant for mass production. They are the more unwearable pieces many people think of when they think of fashion. These pieces are often called 'editorial fashion.' However, even if the pieces were to be mass marketed, the magazine gets them before they go on sale to the actual public. These are considered samples. Once magazines get them, they must check them in, send them to their applicable photoshoots and then return them so another magazine may use them. The concept is similar to that of a library. By the time the pieces are mass produced, they have already photographed for a magazine and sent to print. These items are usually sold at sample sales (hence the name).
Ania Marchenko walks down the
runway at Maison Martin Margiela's
Spring/Summer 2009 fashion show.
(Photographed by: Marcio Madeira

If you take time to think about it though, it really is kind of a ridiculous assumption that magazines get to keep all of the pieces. There are tons and tons of women's fashion magazines. Can you imagine if every large women's fashion magazine got to keep every single piece of clothing or accessories a designer sent them? The designers would probably spend almost their entire net sales giving away samples to magazines.

This is not to say that nothing like this ever happens at a magazine though. I can think of two similar, albeit, not as grandiose, examples.

1. The Beauty Sale. A couple weeks ago we had the opportunity to walk casually and sporadically (without trampling anyone) to sign up for the beauty sale. The beauty sale is an annual event where all the magazines in the building sell their partially used beauty products that have been tested out for stories. They typically allow people to come look around and then buy the products for $1 each. Afterward, they donate the proceeds to charity.
Shoes and bags set up in the W accessories closet.
(Photographed by: Me on Nov. 25, 2008)

2. The Abyss. Sometimes, there are pieces that never get returned for whatever reason. After a certain period of time, they have outlived their fashionable lifespan and are no longer worth what they used to be. If you can slyly bring up your desire for one of these items and the market editor who is over that particular product is having a really good day, you may, just may, get a 2-year old Gucci belt.

"Ask any old fashion assistant, those lowly magazine trolls who work 12-hour days for twenty-something thousand dollars a year, about the ethics associated with accidentally forgetting to return a sample and accidentally taking it home with them, and most will tell you it’s mere income augmentation." -Derek Blasberg